THE RELIGIOUS WRITINGS OF FOLLOWERS OF THE WAY:
HA-HAFTSAROT ‘THE EXHORTATIONS’
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The Exhortations is our equivalent of the New Testament, but does not have any scriptural authority; the only scriptural authority for Talmidis is the Galilean canon of the Hebrew Bible; you do not have to agree with The Exhortations in order to call oneself a Talmidi.
With the exception of the ‘Letter of Ya`aqov Nasi to the Communities Abroad’ (now called ‘The Epistle of St James’), virtually nothing survives of what the earliest Followers of the Way wrote.
Yet the first Jewish followers of Yeshua` must have written other things – it’s only logical. Consider this: Every human being who can read and write, will at some stage set down their thoughts in words on a page. And every religious community that has ever existed has committed its beliefs and teachings to some kind of written form. We cannot avoid but logically assume that the Jewish followers of Yeshua` must have also committed something of their teachings to writing. If nothing survives of these writings, we must assume that they were either lost, or deliberately destroyed by others.
The Purpose Of Talmidi Religious Writings
The sole source of scriptural authority for Followers of the Way, is The Torah & The Prophets(or Miqra – the Hebrew Bible, what Christians call ‘The Old Testament’). However, modern Followers have built up a body of texts collectively called ‘The Exhortations’, or ‘Ha-Haftsarot’in Hebrew. They are not intended as scriptural authority, rather as spiritual inspiration.
Nor or they intended to be word-for-word reproductions of ancient works. Although for the most part, sayings are faithfully reproduced, any passages which are not in keeping with Yahwist theology have been either amended or deleted.
The Exhortations contain 14 works, with the intention of being a vehicle by which ancient Talmidi viewpoints could be recorded and transmitted to future generations; to act as a collection of books through which ancient and modern Talmidi theology can be expounded; and to act as a source of spiritual inspiration and uplift for modern Talmidis.
The Contents of ‘The Exhortations’
(to see the texts of each of these works, click on the embedded links, or on the appropriate title to the left of this page)
1. The Book of Yochanan the Immerser
This book contains an account of the ministry of Yochanan the Immerser (‘John the Baptist’). It is important because Talmidis believe that he was the prophet promised by Malachi, who would teach in the spirit of the Prophet Elijah, and who would come before the ‘Day of YHVH’ (which in his time refered to the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple in 70 CE, and the eventual exile of the Jewish people under the Romans). He was called by God to undertake a ministry of immersion, to make people realise that it wasn’t blood sacrifice that effected the forgiveness of sin, but a penitent heart; that ‘the heart had to be purified by repentance, before the body could be purified by water.’
This is a simple collection of the sayings or ethics of Yeshua` of Natsareth. It is an attempt to reconstruct the so-called ‘Q-Gospel’ – the source of the common sayings found in the gospels of Matthew and Luke.
This is a collection of sayings drawn from the gospels of Mark, Matthew, Luke, and Thomas; it contains all the sayings of Yeshua` from the gosepls which scholars have deemed are of Jewish origin. Many of the gospel sayings have been re-Judaicised, in an attempt to reconstruct their original Jewish milieu. Yeshua` is therefore portrayed as a human prophet called by God to warn people of the coming destruction and consequent exile.
This book contains the common narrative threads found in all the ‘Passion’ accounts – the last week of Yeshua`’s life. He is portrayed, not as a god-man who died to save us from our sins, but rather as a Jewish prophet who was cruelly put to death at the hands of the Roman authorities. Whereas the New Testament is heavily anti-Semitic in this regard, this book attempts to redress 2,000 years of bias.
This is drawn from an ancient Koine Greek mansucript known as the Didache (‘the Teaching’) . It is a reconstruction of what may have been a manual for Gentile converts to The Way, to familiarise them with its teachings and practices.
This is the ‘Letter of St James’ from the New Testament, in a slightly different format – paragraphs have been completely rearranged to make the themes of the letter flow more naturally. Jacob the Pious (‘St James’) was the leader of the ancient community of Followers, much respected as a pious and holy man.
This book draws heavily from the ‘Ascents of James’, and other extent ancient sources about Jacob the Pious. Since no account of his life remains, this work was intended to stand as a memorial to him, to put across his devotion to God and holy way of life. Ancient Followers believed that his prayers stayed or at least delayed the destruction of Jerusalem. Within 4 years of his death, the Jewish Revolt began; within 8 years, the Temple was gone.
This is drawn from the Jewish parts of the ‘Book of Revelation’ in the New Testament. The ‘day of wrath and destruction’ is understood as referring to the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple, and the ultimate exile of the Jewish people from the Land of Israel.
This is a collection of Laments, seeking to understand the causes of the Destruction and the Roman Exile, but ultimately portrays an unshakeable faith in God, despite what has happened. The Zealots are heavily condemned as being the main cause of the defilement of the sanctity of the Temple; it conveys the belief that the Temple was destroyed because the reputation of God’s holiness had been defiled, and the exile was necessary so that the sanctity of God’s holy city could be restored.
This is the story of the term of office of Shimon son of Qlofas as head (Nasi) of the Jewish community of Yeshua`’s Followers. It tells the story of his visions, and of how he led the community to escape from Jerusalem to Pella before the First Jewish-Roman War of 66-73 CE. It continues after him to the last Nasi of the community, Yudah Nasi.
These particular psalms are taken from the Dead Sea Scrolls, believed by some to be Ebionite hymns.
Although the Book of the Wisdom of Jesus ben Sira (also known as the Book of Ecclesiasticus), was not written by Followers of the Way, many of its sayings resonate with the ethics of Talmidaism. the chosen sayings included in this book are those which also accord with the mindset of Talmidaism – sayings which would have inspired ancient Followers.
The setting of this book is the Bar Kochba Revolt in 135CE, and the final extinction of the line of Nasis (religious presidents), of which Jacob the Pious was the first, and Judah was the last. It contains warnings of the kind of immorality to avoid, and the kind of righteous and pious way of life to aspire to. Much of its content is drawn from the ‘Testament of the 12 Patriarchs’.
This book is basically a collection of sayings and parables, drawn together to provide a thought-provoking source of wisdom for modern Talmidis. Of all the books, it is the one book which, over time, it is hoped will be added to.
(to see the texts of each of these works, click on the emedded links, or on the appropriate title to the left of this page)